Reflection on the Lectionary Sunday 20th August (Ordinary 20)

Psalm 133; Genesis 45 :1–15; Romans 11 : 1– 2, 29 – 32; Matthew 15 : 21 – 28

The reflection for this week is by Local Preacher, David Carter (Watley’s End).

Our gospel reading, about the healing of the daughter of a Psyro-Phoenician woman, reminds us of something that we easily overlook, that in his human life, Jesus was subject to the limitations of understanding that affect of all of us. Luke reminds us that he had to grow in wisdom (Luke 2:52), the author of Hebrews that he had to learn obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:5). At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus saw it as being for the benefit solely of his own people, a point reflected in our reading where Jesus states clearly that he was ‘sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’.

Overall, the gospels relate three incidents that helped change his understanding of what God required on him. One was this confrontation with a Psyro-Phoenician woman, the other two were the discovery of the great faith of a Roman centurion, who wanted his servant healed and his encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well.

All three were people that Jesus, as a well brought up Jewish man, would normally have avoided. Our story tells us that the disciples just wanted Jesus to brush the woman off, she was after all an alien, not one of the special people of God.

Jesus, however, was overwhelmed by the woman’s faith and to her daringly sharp answer to his statement that the children’s food should not be given to dogs. The woman had faith that somehow this Jewish teacher and healer (as much an alien to her as she was to him) somehow had resources from which she could benefit. Jesus, in turn, was amazed by her faith and healed her daughter.

I’m sure this was a key moment in the development of our Lord’s ministry, one that helped him to realise that he was ultimately called to a ministry much wider than purely to his own people. It was an understanding on which the disciples may well have reflected after the resurrection when the complex question arose of whether Gentiles should be allowed to join the Church without first having to keep all the Jewish laws. Peter’s testimony about the Spirit being given to the Gentile convert, Cornelius, ultimately settled the issue but the development was foreshadowed in this key incident in Our Lord’s ministry.


‘Father, we thank you that, in Christ, you have made available for all people without discrimination, sufficient, sovereign saving grace’.